2nd witness admits to lying during Huntsville excessive force investigation

2nd witness admits to lying during Huntsville excessive force investigation
Officer Bates told the court it was "hard to testify against someone" he worked with for years. (Source: WAFF)
Officer Bates told the court it was "hard to testify against someone" he worked with for years. (Source: WAFF)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A second witness has admitted on the stand to lying to investigators handling an excessive force case against a Huntsville police officer.

Huntsville police officer Brett Russell is charged with use of excessive force and obstruction of justice, stemming from an arrest made by Russell in 2011.

Russell is charged after a 2011 altercation with Gary Wayne Hopkins who was being placed under arrest after a domestic violence call. Officers on the scene arrested Hopkins for beating his wife in front of his children.

Monday, testimony from a participant in the police department's ride-along program was heard. The man said that he had lied to investigators three times about what happened that night in 2011 and he also lied to the FBI.

Testimony continued with members of the Huntsville police force Tuesday.

Joshua Bates testified Tuesday afternoon. He was training a cadet the night Hopkins was arrested. He had been called to the scene to assist in putting Hopkins in leg shackles.

Bates told the court that if he had known Russell talked about the assault, he would not have gone to assist. He broke down on the stand and admitted to the court that he lied twice to Internal Affairs, lied to an FBI agent, and then lied to a federal grand jury.

He said he lied about seeing Russell strike Hopkins and that he also lied about Hopkins' movement, which he now says were really from Russell's blows.

Bates admitted the truth to the U.S. Attorney a few days ago, saying it affected his family life and career. Prosecutors offered him immunity in exchange for Tuesday's testimony.

The officer told the court it was hard to testify against someone he worked with for several years. He said the altercation he witnessed was shocking, and that Hopkins was not resisting, and that Hopkins did not spit at officers, swear or headbutt anyone while on the way to Russell's car.

"I didn't think he was resisting," Bates said. "I was still in shock about what was going on."

When asked why he didn't do anything, Bates said he froze in disbelief of what was taking place. The 8-year veteran of the department said he was scared about losing his job, adding that he carried that with him for the last four years.

The jury was shown more video from the altercation, in which Officer Russell is heard saying, "You deserve to get that ass whooping."

In other testimony Tuesday, one witness was a Huntsville training officer who talked about use of force. The second was a dispatcher who ran through a timeline on the arrest in question. The third witness was the police officer who was the first to make contact with Hopkins.

The internal affairs investigator who handled the altercation also took the stand. He testified that he found Hopkins property in Russell's vehicle on Jan. 5, 2012. The altercation itself took place on Dec. 23, 2011. That corresponds with the prosecution's claim Monday that Russell kept Hopkins' property as "trophies."

When the internal affairs investigator was asked how often Huntsville police officers lie to him during his investigations, he said around three to four percent of HPD officers have lied in his experience.

The investigator also testified that there were several inconsistent statements that Hopkins made when he filed his report with internal affairs. They included a claim that he had been pepper sprayed, which according to the investigator did not happen, and also a claim that 45 Huntsville police officers had beat him, which was later found to be untrue.

Lieutenant Anthony Hudson, who was a sergeant at the time, told the court that Russell never filled out an after-action report about the use of force on Hopkins.

Two witnesses from Metro Jail and one from Huntsville Hospital took the stand discussing Hopkins' admission to the hospital. ER records show that Hopkins was treated for three hours.

Sergeant Clay Warmbrod was the sergeant on the shift following the Dec. 23 incident, and came across Russell's report on the Hopkins arrest. He testified that Russell's report shows Hopkins was taken to jail without incident, with no mention about the use of force.

Sgt. Warmbrod also testified that policy was not followed about notifying supervisors when an inmate is taken to a hospital. That means no investigation was started right away. He also testified that there was no reason Russell should have still had Hopkins' property in his car on Jan. 5, when the charges against Hopkins were dropped days earlier.

Video footage captured Hopkins kicking at officers and even breaking a patrol car window. At one point, Hopkins even kicks out a window in the police car. The video then shows Russell hitting and kicking the man, who remains handcuffed. The man had to be checked out at Huntsville Hospital before being taken to jail.

Russell was fired from the Huntsville Police Department in May 2012 and was unanimously reinstated by the Huntsville City Council in August of that year.

He pleaded not guilty in May to the 2011 charges.

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